Amulets gallery

Browse these strange objects from Edward Lovett's collection of amulets, and discover the magical properties that their owners ascribed to them.

Piece of coral in a metal mount
"The widespread wearing of red coral is for life and health, by its colour sympathy with blood." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 79

Piece of coral in a spiralling and tapering metal mount with a suspension loop.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.295]
Necklaces of blue beads
"Upon further enquiries, which had to be conducted in a diplomatic manner, I ascertained from her the following interesting details respecting the wearing of blue beads. They are put on the necks of very young children and never taken off, not even when the wearers are washed or bathed. They are not taken off even at death. When a string breaks the beads are at once re-threaded on a fresh string and replaced round the neck. Although the colour sometimes varies (I have seen a few dark blue, yellow or white) the colour is almost always sky blue." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 82

Necklaces of blue beads, said to ward off bronchitis.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum
Carved horn acorn in two pieces
"I do not know of any object which for its size enjoys such a reputation as the acorn. I do not allude so much to the natural object, which when ripe falls from the cup and thus loses its character. I refer to the acorn design, which is so widely met with and made in so many different materials." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 63

Carved horn acorn in two pieces, containing a bell. Used as an amulet against lightning.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.269]
Wooden box shaped like a boot
"The exceedingly simple but very beautiful symbolism of the shoe is that it typifies the path of life!... Besides the specimens made of various metals, wood, bone, ivory, glass, china, terra-cotta, cloth, etc., leather is frequently used for these tiny copies of shoes... and they were not intended for dolls but more as ex voto" ... The various uses to which these…were put were as follows: Boxes for dominoes, flower vases, ink bottles, pin holders, tape measures, scent bottles, match boxes, snuff boxes, and the modern satin shoes for throwing at weddings." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 58

Wooden box shaped like a boot, with a hinged wooden lid and decorated with inlaid copper alloy.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.137]
Miniature horseshoe
"The horse shoe, as everyone knows, is great magic, but opinions vary as to the conditions under which it becomes lucky." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 98

Miniature horseshoe with seven indentations on one side.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.164]
Pink glass sea horse
"I found itinerant hawkers of curios selling the hippocampus, tied in bundles of three with red worsted. These were sold for luck, a poor survival of a very old and grander legend...[in Venice] I found that the wives of fishermen, nursing babies, kept a dried sea horse on their breasts to facilitate the flow of milk... I am very much inclined to believe that the curious white metal prow of this remarkable boat [the gondola] is evolved from the sea horse." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 87

Pink glass sea horse, used as a charm.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.541]
Two mole's feet
"The front feet of a mole are permanently curved for digging, and this curved appearance is so suggestive of cramp that these feet are carried as a cure for cramp." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 78

Two mole's feet. Used as an amulet.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.361]
Stone with a natural hole
"A small stone with a natural hole through it is thought to be lucky if found unexpectedly! or given to one. It must not be looked for, asked for, or bought." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 79

Stone with a natural hole through the centre, and a key attached to it with wire. Used as an amulet.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.993]
Ammonite, carved with a snake's head
"In Wiltshire and Gloucestershire I remember seeing ammonites and other fossils placed on the outside window ledges of cottages. The mischievous village boy never interfered with these, although so invitingly placed. I found the reason was that they were thunderbolts! That was quite enough." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 50

Ammonite, carved with a snake's head. Used as an amulet.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.1015 ]
Silver votive offering in the shape of an arm
"In short, a votive offering - much in the same way that silver representations of bodies, limbs, etc., are hung up in the churches all over Europe." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 27

Silver votive offering in the shape of an arm. Perforated through the top of the object.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.78]
Sheep's heart, stuck with nails and pins
"A cow keeper, who was one of the old school and originally came from Devonshire, had the misfortune to incur the intense wrath of a man of vindictive temper. He threatened to bewitch the poor man's cows, and two of then died. The cow keeper there upon, took the heart of one of the dead animals, stuck it all over with pins and nails and hung it up in the Chimney of his house... such action is supposed to be of such a serious nature that it brought about an arrangement of a more or less satisfactory character." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 67

Sheep's heart, stuck with nails and pins. Said to have been used to break a spell cast by a witch over a farmer's cattle.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.177]
The Lord's Prayer, hand written on a circle of paper
On the 9th of September in 1872 in Southampton, George Yeofound aged 88 years wrote with a steady hand in ink on both sides of a small disc of paper, the size of a small coin. The writing so small it is really only legible when magnified. The edges of the paper are cut into points in order for it to wrap around the edge of the coin. On one side he writes: "Mr Mayes[illegible letters] The Lord's Prayer within the circle of a sovereign By George [?]Yeofound A Comm General & Major. Aged 88 years Southampton 9th of September 1872" On the other side he wrote the Lord’s prayer starting at the outer edge and spiralling in towards the centre. For good measure in the remaining space after "Amen" he wrote his name and age again and manages to fit in "Southampton" too.

The Lord's Prayer, hand written on a circle of paper, with points cut around the edge. Worn as an amulet by a soldier during World War I.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.781]
Round glass pendant with the number '13'
Round glass pendant with the number '13' carved into the back and painted in black. Mounted in copper alloy with a suspension loop.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.551]
Lower jaw of a small animal with silver mount
Lower jaw of a small animal with silver mount and suspension chain. Used as an amulet.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.948]
Victorian silver coin
Victorian silver coin. Ground on one surface and inscribed with "DAD" and a drawing of a bottle and glass. With a perforation through the top.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.383]
Amulet to protect weaver from poverty
Amulet to protect weaver from poverty, comprising several coins bound together into a circle with five coins suspended beneath and two above.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.759]
Two ivory cups on long red wood handles
Two ivory cups on long red wood handles and a miniature shuttlecock. Used as a game charm.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.780]
Lumbar vertebra carved with a human face
Large animal lumbar vertebra carved with at one end with a human face. Used as a household talisman.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.1038]
Box containing rice thrown for luck at a wedding
Box containing rice grains thrown for luck at a wedding.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.190]
Hazelnut with copper mount
Hazelnut with copper mount and wire link at the top for attaching to a chain or similar.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.195]
Offering in the shape of a man's head
Silver votive offering in the shape of a man's head.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.103]
Wishbone bound in blue and red ribbon
Wishbone bound in blue and red ribbon. One side of the bone is broken off, but is still attached by the bound ribbon.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.179]
Carved bone fish with black glass eyes
Carved bone fish with black glass eyes and a wire suspension loop. Used as an amulet.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.912]
Silver heart-shaped reliquary in two pieces
Silver heart-shaped reliquary in two pieces. Used as protection from evil.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.504]
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